Following his worldwide reunion tour with Return To Forever in 2008 and separate trio tours in 2009 — one with Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke, the other with pianist Hiromi with Clarke — Lenny White was primed to put out his own recording, his first as a leader in 10 years. With the release of Anomaly on the Abstract Logix label, the pioneering jazz-rock drummer returns to his roots, blending powerhouse backbeats and improvisational abandon in an unapologetically aggressive manner that characterized the early-’70s fusion movement.
“We need to restart a revolution so that we can take back the music and stop the fluff,” White says. “I’m hoping that this new album is a representation of that ideal.”
Accompanied by guitarists Jimmy Herring, Nick Moroch (a former member of White’s Astral Pirates), David Gilmore, Tom Guarna and David Bendeth; keyboardists George Colligan, Bernard Wright, Donald Blackman (another Astral Pirate ) and Vince Evans; and bassists Victor Bailey, Richie Goods, Charles Fambrough and RTF bandmate Stanley Clarke, White unleashes with fury on Anomaly, his 10th overall recording as a leader.
Largely self-taught on drums, native New Yorker White broke into the jazz world in 1968 with alto saxophonist Jackie McLean. The following year he participated in Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, generally regarded as the album that launched the fusion movement. He subsequently recorded with a wealth of talented jazz musicians, including Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Joe Henderson, Gato Barbieri, Stan Getz and composer-bandleader Gil Evans. As a member of Return To Forever from 1973 to 1976, White gained a reputation as one of fusion’s top drummers. “I’m basically a jazz guy, and that’s what I grew up playing,” he says. “But when this new thing happened with jazz-rock through Bitches Brew and bands like Tony Williams Lifetime and Return To Forever, I found myself on the ground floor of a movement. And this musical movement co-existed with other forms of music that came in during the latter part of the 20th century.”
“I was fortunate when I started to make music,” he continues. “I made music at the same time that Igor Stravinksy was making music, at the same time that Jimi Hendrix and James Brown were making music, at the same time that Duke Ellington and Miles Davis and John Coltrane were making music. Led Zeppelin co-existed at the same time that Return To Forever did. I listened to all that music and was influenced by all of it. So now when I put together an eclectic project I sometimes hear people say, ‘Oh man, what is he trying to do?’ But the truth is, I’m not trying to do anything. I’m just representing the music that I came up listening to.”
Photo credit: Michael Weintrob